Review By Matthew Hocter
There are moments in life that leave you speechless, unable to comprehend what you just witnessed and the yearning for more is inescapable. The understanding of what you are witnessing may be from a different gaze, but you know that inherently you will be moved and challenged beyond belief. Being moved is not a new or foreign concept to me. Rare, yes, craving more of this? Yes, and yes. On Saturday night I was yet again challenged by the dance and music collective which brought together Electric Fields, Iwiri, and the SA First Nations Dance Collective to present the work Inma. Inma, in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara languages is the word for ceremonial song and dance. It also happens to be one of the most beautiful performance pieces I have had the privilege of seeing in a very long time. Truth.
When you have 60,000 years of continuous culture and ancestry on your side, anything that is a part of that lineage is going to be nothing short of food for the soul. The song was brought about by the choir members of Iwiri which included Elders, younger people and also males. Iwiri, the word for “roots” (of plants, underground) gives even more meaning to the majesty of the Elders that graced the stage and ensured that culture, their culture, was firmly planted in the ground of The Moa that night.
Inma, (also the name of the debut EP from Electric Fields), was the live performance piece pulled together by Electric Fields Manager, Diana Sautelle & the Director of SA First Nations Dance Collective, Gina Rings (creative direction and production), along with Aidan Tothill on lighting, Chris Prendergast on audio and Sam Osbourne, who is the musical director for the Iwiri choir. With impeccable direction like this, it seemed only fitting that Iwiri were joined on stage by Electric Fields. With lead vocalist Zaachariaha Fielding providing one of the most important voices in modern First Nations Australian music, and his music partner Michael Ross on keyboard and production, Electric Fields managed to bridge the connection of past, present and future, by staying true to their roots - with songs in the Anangu languages and English, whilst integrating modern sounds. Sonic euphoria in all its unadulterated beauty.
Not just simply being Fringe Ambassadors, Electric Fields upped the ante as they intertwined cultures, incorporating traditional dance from Iwiri, and contemporary choreography from the SA First Nations Dance Collective, with an incredibly beautiful solo performance from Thomas Fonua, aka drag royalty “Kween Kong.” Coupled with the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Fielding, Fonua moved across the stage in a way that not only captivated, but silently commanded that all eyes remained on him. They were. No matter where you sat, the energy and intensity of his performance was nothing short of mind blowing.
The APY Lands are home to Fielding and something that he is incredibly proud of and rightly so. Throughout the performance he questioned the audience “Are you happy? If you are happy then we are too.” Simplistic in his questioning, yet undeniably happy were his audience. This show was one that received not one, but two standing ovations, something that rarely happens in any show and yet Inma, in all its humility and traditional beauty, brought a familiar voice to an all too often unfamiliar musical landscape and that needs to change.
It will, and it is.